Israel’s Ugly Election—Heightened Conflicts, New Challenges

by Larry Everest | March 23, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


On March 17, Benjamin Netanyahu, the reactionary leader of Israel, was re-elected. More significantly, to win re-election Netanyahu openly reversed his previous professed support for a Palestinian state and actually whipped up racist hysteria against Palestinian Israelis who were exercising their (legal) right to vote in the election. In doing so, Netanyahu significantly widened the depth of his public disagreements with Barack Obama. The consequences of this are unpredictable—but what is clear is that the potential for this sparking a “chaotic situation in the region,” in the words of Obama’s criticism of Netanyahu, has gone way up. Why did this happen? Why is there so much controversy over this? And what challenges does all this pose to people who want justice, and to the movement for revolution?

Israel: An Illegitimate Settler-Colonial State and Hit Man for Imperialism

Israel is a Zionist, settler-colonial state built on the terrorist expulsion and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian population. Israel has, from its founding to the present day, subjected the Palestinian people to repeated massacres and daily humiliation and brutality. Prime Minister Netanyahu is on the hard-right edge of that political spectrum. He is notorious for unapologetically upholding Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians and belligerently demanding that nobody interfere.

Last summer’s barbaric military assault on Gaza was just one example. Israel, led by Netanyahu, unleashed a torrent of bombs and missiles, murdering more than 2,000 Palestinians, 500 of them children. Much of Gaza was reduced to rubble, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. And this was done to further punish and terrorize Gaza’s 1.8 million Palestinians who were already confined to what is in effect the world’s largest outdoor prison—cut off from contact with the outside world and the ability to live.

Netanyahu and Israel are increasingly exposed and isolated around the world. And they’ve been sharply at odds with the Obama administration over key issues. For these and other reasons (including elements of disaffection among Israeli voters), many observers predicted that Netanyahu would be defeated by a coalition of less virulent political parties. This was clearly the preference of Obama and West European powers. They depend on Israel as a key ally and enforcer in the Middle East, but have growing differences with Israel. And they are increasingly uncomfortable with the regional and global political fallout that supporting Israel brings.

But Netanyahu wasn’t defeated. He and his Likud Party scored a resounding victory, winning 30 seats in Israel’s Parliament, 12 more than in the last election, and six more than its closest competitor. And Netanyahu didn’t win by becoming more “moderate,” just the opposite. Faced with the possibility of an election defeat, he went even further to the right and appealed to and called forward the ugliest, most fascist elements in Israel.

First, Netanyahu threw out stated U.S. and Israeli policy, and vowed there would never be a Palestinian state. Then he went on an openly racist rant warning right-wing Israelis that “Arabs” (Palestinian citizens of Israel*) were streaming to the polls “in droves,” threatening to steal the election.

What does this mean, and not mean?

For decades, the U.S. and Israel have maintained two fictions. First, that Israel is a democratic state—the only one in the Middle East—in which all of its citizens are equal. Second, that Israel is sincerely trying to satisfy the national aspirations of the Palestinian people by negotiating with them to create a separate Palestinian state—the so-called “two-state solution.”

The two-state solution has never been about anything but a promise of a surrounded, oppressed micro-state, utterly dependent on Israel and defenseless in the face of Israeli violence. And Israeli democracy has been and is a form through which the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine takes place. But it’s a big deal that Netanyahu has now publicly and openly rejected these longtime legitimizing myths. He was elected on a campaign and platform that in effect denies Palestinians a voice in the democratic process in Israel and the right to any form of statehood. This amounts to a call for Israel to be put on a more openly fascist, genocidal, and warlike footing. Miko Peled, a progressive critic of Zionism, called Netanyahu’s election a declaration of “war on Palestinians everywhere,” and “a mandate for the Israeli government to murder Palestinians.”

No one can say exactly what the reverberations from all this could be, but they could be far-reaching and profound—in Israel, regionally, and globally. Netanyahu’s election could be a major blow to any remaining sense of Israel’s legitimacy even for some within Israel and for many, many people around the world. It could spark struggles and upheavals in Palestine. It could also have serious and unpredictable political consequences in Europe, and lead to much more dramatic disaffection in the U.S.—among liberal Jews and especially among students. Such developments might propel even more powerful and energetic anti-occupation/boycott-divestment campaigns on campuses in the U.S. and worldwide (where such movements are a major and positive force).

All this could be part of more deeply cracking open the overall political-ideological terrain and atmosphere. What has seemed to be a horrific yet permanent situation may now be seen by many as breaking down, and not necessarily so permanent.

Israel is a key linchpin in the imperialist world order. So it is a big deal that the legitimacy and credibility of this whole sordid setup could end up being called into question for many, many more people by Israel’s more openly genocidal posture. And that “turn to the right” in Israel is one product of intensifying and intractable contradictions confronting global imperialism on many different fronts.

A Host of Conflicts and Contradictions

This intensified tension between the U.S. and Israel is happening when the U.S. rulers face a host of other contradictions at home and around the world. Among other challenges, instability and in some places chaos is spreading across the Middle East and North Africa where reactionary Islamic fundamentalists like ISIS have made big advances. Just this past week, the U.S. was forced to withdraw its military forces from Yemen. And this is all mixed in with growing challenges to U.S. global hegemony (domination) from rival oppressive powers including Russia and China. The “individual choices” made by political figures like Netanyahu interact with this complex and chaotic political landscape, again—in this case—with consequences yet to unfold and emerge.

They feud...but they share basic values

The Obama administration reacted very sharply to Netanyahu’s election victory, condemning his campaign positions and warning that the U.S. may now shift its position on Palestinian statehood in the UN—against Israeli wishes. In an interview with the Huffington Post (March 21, 2015), Obama warned that Netanyahu’s renunciation of the two-state solution was forcing the U.S. to “evaluate what other options are available to make sure that we don’t see a chaotic situation in the region.” Intersecting with all these challenges to the U.S. empire and tensions with Israel are U.S. moves to integrate Iran into its networks of oppression in some form, and Israel’s adamant opposition to these moves (see “Missing from the ‘Debate’ over Iran: the Interests of Humanity!” at And there are real differences between Obama and Netanyahu over how to handle the Palestinian issue. All these conflicts boil down to disagreement over how—not whether!—to enforce domination of the peoples in the Middle East.

To be clear, the U.S. at this point is not “cutting off Israel.” Obama has made clear that the billions of dollars in U.S. aid that have made Israel the most powerful military in the region will still flow. But when possible forces of “chaos” have been released, neither Obama, nor Netanyahu, nor any single actor can predict everything they will and won’t do, all the consequences of their actions, or where things will go. Things are not under the control of any single force, as the recent eruption of U.S.-Israeli tensions, in response to the many contradictions each faces, shows.

The potential for upheaval in all this is heightened by the sharp conflicts between Obama (and those who support him) on the one hand, and the Republican Party on the other. The Republicans invited Netanyahu to address Congress and to criticize Obama’s effort to make an agreement with Iran over Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear power. It is virtually unprecedented for competing groups of rulers in the U.S. to invite a foreign leader into the middle of a conflict they are having over foreign policy! That they would do this shows, first, how high-stakes the disagreements over how best to dominate the Middle East are; and second, how these conflicts mix into a whole matrix of contradictions that these rulers have over how to “navigate” imperialist interests at a time of great upheaval and challenge.

In the face of these serious challenges, the U.S. and/or Israel may well feel compelled to make extreme moves that would bring even more death, destruction, and suffering to the region. The current situation is extremely ominous for the Palestinian people. It’s hard to imagine how—after decades of brutal military occupation and wars—things could get worse. Right now, to take one example, children in Gaza are still living in rubble from last summer’s Israeli blitzkrieg... and are freezing to death! Yet given the situation in Israel, occupied Palestine, and the region, Netanyahu’s election and repudiation of even a token Palestinian micro-state points toward even more openly genocidal atrocities being carried out by Israel.

It is crucial during this period that revolutionaries, as well as all people with a basic sense of justice, be alert to and take initiative to combat further Israeli or U.S. outrages. This is particularly true on the campuses, but out in the broader society as well: as the “5 Stops” palm card puts it, “STOP Wars of Empire, Armies of Occupation and Crimes Against Humanity!” The need to make that real will likely be very acute in the coming period.

But there is another level as well. None of the current “alternatives”—neither Western imperialism nor Islamic fundamentalism in any of their forms—can bring an end to the one of the greatest and most blatant crimes of the last 100 years: the ethnic cleansing, suppression, and genocide against the Palestinian people. Nor do any of the forces in the field—the U.S., the European powers, Russia or China, Iran, ISIS—have any answers to the horrors the people of the region as a whole are up against. They do not offer a way out for people.

There is a crying need to bring forward another way! The article “Missing from the ‘Debate’ over Iran: the Interests of Humanity!” makes the point that people in the Middle East and beyond “never stopped struggling against oppression. But what they lacked, or what they have lacked in sufficient strength, was a leadership that had a vision and strategy to unite all positive factors and really break through to bring forward societies that liberate people, with the aim of a world without oppression of any kind.” And that article points to the potential when there is that kind of leadership, that “represents the interests of the most oppressed and exploited people in society, those who, as a class of people, have no stake in any oppression. Such a force can bring forward and give full play to positive factors for revolution in a way no other can, including very importantly unleashing the fury of women as a mighty force for revolution. Such a force can unite very broadly, while continually focusing the struggle against the enforcers of exploitation and oppression.” The force that can play this role is a genuine revolutionary communist party based in Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism. (To learn about and connect with Bob Avakian and the new synthesis, get into the material at,) Imagine what a difference a party like that would make in the current situation, and in the range of possibilities that might arise.

* As a matter of policy, Israeli officials refuse to refer to Palestinian people who are survivors of the ethnic cleansing of their land as Palestinians. Instead, Israeli officials use the term “Arabs” (a more general ethnic category that includes Palestinians). This is a cultural and ideological component of Israel’s ongoing genocide—denying the existence of the Palestinian people.[back]


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